Hoo, boy. 2020 has not been a banner year for the chronically stressed, always worried, or often agitated. The information overload can feel overwhelming. One of the best, and simplest, ways to find fast relief is mindfulness. We all know there are many benefits to meditation for stress relief, but busy schedules and too many responsibilities mean we put off the habit—compounding the need to push pause in the first place.
Conquering the Right Kind of Stress
Not all stress is bad—there’s good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). Eustress prompts you to check off your to-do list. If you’re feeling nervous while practicing for a presentation, it’s the brain’s way of nudging you to prepare. But once eustress reaches a certain level, it spills over into distress, triggering your fight-or-flight response. A cocktail of chemicals is released into the brain, including cortisol, to prepare your body to get outta there.
Here are the major reasons people feel stressed right now, from our Worry-Free Ways to Achieve Stress Management blog.
There’s often no quick way to escape from these stressors, so the pressure keeps building—and the human body isn’t equipped to handle long-term stress. It can cause a host of health issues, including difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, indigestion, decreased libido, and more.
Luckily, using meditation for stress relief is an easy—and free—solution. You can incorporate mindfulness any time you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, whether it’s a relatively low-stress day or you’re at your limit. Prevention is always better than the cure, so incorporate daily stress management techniques into your daily routine.
The Benefits of Guided Meditation for Stress
Slowing down, taking measured breaths, and focusing your mind on your present self allows your brain to strengthen neural connections and, over time, alleviates mental stress and promotes sustained focus. While meditating, your brain produces alpha and theta waves, which usually only occurs during the deepest phases of sleep. It also lowers cortisol levels, in direct contrast to distress. If you weren’t convinced before now, using meditation for stress-busting benefits is a no-brainer.
You can tune out to guided meditation any time for quick relief.
In the short term, meditation produces small, yet meaningful reductions in blood pressure increases your self-awareness, induces a state of relaxation, and reduces negative emotions. Meditating consistently over a period of months and years increases gray matter and helps your brain literally rewire itself. Science! It’s also shown to decrease the potential of relapsing into a low mood, and participants in one study reported experiencing a better quality of life.
Meditation for stress relief is also a key way to increase gratitude, prompting your parasympathetic nervous system to reduce cortisol levels while increasing the production of other feel-good chemicals.
Find your parasympathetic state of mind.
Tips for a Successful Meditation Session
Practicing meditation is just that—practice. It’s a skill you can improve over time. Here are tips to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine:
Make the time. Block out 20 minutes anywhere in your day—five to 10 minutes to let your mind settle down, and the rest of the time to close your eyes and breathe. Bonus points if meditation is the first thing you do in the morning.
Keep things quiet. A silent setting is ideal for zoning out of the world and into your head, but it isn’t always possible to find a peaceful space. When it’s loud, put on your headphones and listen to pink noise, which tunes your mind for sleep and relaxation.
Prime your mind. At times, it’s hard to sit still long enough to enjoy any benefits of meditation. Avoid too many stimulants throughout the day, eat a healthy, varied diet, and get plenty of exercise.
Sleep on it. Consistent, quality sleep contributes to overall health and helps you regulate emotions, an important element of stress management. Sleep supports mindfulness, and meditation can easily blend into your healthy nighttime routine. It’s a physiological win-win.
Don’t give up. Even three deliberate breaths are enough to trigger meditation for stress relief. When there’s no time to spare, allow yourself three deep breaths before beginning your day—your brain will thank you.
Meditation for stress relief increases gratitude, prompting your parasympathetic nervous system to reduce cortisol.